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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2127

Political repression on the rise in Crimea;
A new way to expand Russia's citizenry

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Kaitlyn Johnson and Garrett Lynch
April 18, 2017


March 7: 

Since its annexation by Russia in 2014, the Crimean peninsula has seen a surge in political repression. Though Russian authorities deny any responsibility for ongoing abuses, human rights watchdog Freedom House 
has found Moscow to be complicit in the erosion of human rights on the territory. In particular, Freedom House asserts, the Russian government has been coercing residents to participate in local stage-managed elections, reinforcing a climate of fear that has hindered political opposition, and severely restricted freedoms of assembly and association. 

One of the main targets of government retribution has been Crimea's native Tatar population, which has opposed Russia's control of the region. Since 2014, Tatar leaders and activists have faced increased persecution, with some being forced into exile while others have simply disappeared. Additionally, last year, Russian authorities formally banned the Mejlis, a Tatar consultative body, on grounds that the organization was guilty of "extremist activity." 

March 8:

General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told the House Armed Services Committee that military officials believe Russia has deployed prohibited land-based cruise missiles in Europe in violation of the 1987 INF Treaty. 
According to the New York Times, Selva claimed that the missiles present "a risk to most of our (US/NATO) facilities in Europe... And we believe that that the Russians have deliberately deployed [this capability] in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility." 

European allies are not the only ones concerned. Russia's missiles are mobile, meaning they could pose a serious threat if deployed to the country's Far East. From there, the missiles could threaten a number of Asian states, including Japan and China. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry has denied the deployment, calling the reports "fake news." 

March 9:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed 10 senior law enforcement officers from the Interior Ministry, the Investigative Committee, and the country's prison service in what amounts to a new bureaucratic purge. While no reason was given for the mass dismissal, Putin recently warned publicly that authorities must do a better job at fighting problems such as extremism, illegal migration, deadly traffic accidents and teen suicides, because almost half of such crimes currently go unsolved. 

March 10:

Russia and Turkey have signed a memorandum for the creation of a joint investment fund totaling $1 billion or more. Under the arrangement, each country will invest upwards to $500 million each in the venture. 
According to Reuters, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Türkiye Wealth Fund (TWF) both signed the memorandum in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev, "A common approach to the investment process will promote the development of economic cooperation and make it more effective. RDIF and TWF are already in talks on a number of potential joint investment projects." Neither the RDIF nor the TWF have specified how the monies from the joint fund would be allocated, though Russia's Kommersant newspaper has previously reported that the new venture would be investing in healthcare and tourism. 

March 12:

Russia's lower house of parliament is considering a bill to provide citizenship to individuals born outside the country. 
RIA Novosti reports that the provisional legislation, now being considered by the Duma, would grant citizenship to any applicant who speaks Russian and hails from a former Soviet state. Moscow has said that the measure is designed to attract immigration into Russia from the "post-Soviet space."